The chill of autumn has officially arrived, but the warmth of my summer love still lingers.
Everyone has had a love; some just don’t go away. And so it is with mine – she’s been with me all my life, patiently awaiting the day I would once again bathe her with affection, turning what were once faded, cherished snapshots of reminiscence back into vibrant portraits of stunning clarity.
I met her as a young boy, when I did not yet see or realize the beauty of what lay beneath. She was my grandfather’s girl then, and of course I had no inkling that our relationship had already been preordained. “She’s going to be yours one day, Butch.” I still don’t know why he sometimes called me Butch, but I always liked it. When you’re young, little things like that tend to stick with you forever. Like a lightning bug floating free inside your heart, it’s a warm little glow that never ceases. “Are you listening to what I’m saying? She’s going to be yours.”
But I wasn’t listening. I had the attention span of…well, of course a kid.
As years went by, I became more curious about girls. What made them tick. What made them move the way they moved. I’d spend hours watching them shimmy. Watching them shake. But they were there. Always over there, in the distance. Never here where I stood. I didn’t know how to get close to one.
I just knew I wanted a girl all my own.
Freshman year of high school, my grandfather passed away. I didn’t know much about death then. I was scared beyond reason, the concept fathomless as the night sky above me. Now I realize that death is but a veil I must someday part as familiar hands take my own.
“She’s going to be yours one day, Butch.”
Mine? Another fathomless concept. And then she was.
Finally united, we became inseparable. I spent hours with her, days upon end, from the moment the sky warmed with the sing-song melody of birds rejoicing a new day, until the crickets triumphantly heralded the arrival of long, cool shadows. She was everything you could want from a girl and more. With her, I learned that beauty is more than skin deep. That sometimes something worn craves a fresh touch. She was always there for me, so welcoming, so understanding. I think back, and I wonder just who needed the other more?
I gave her unconditional love, even on days she was feeling down. I nursed her through the difficult times she had been abused by foreign, hateful hands when left unattended. Those moments made me sick. Broke me. She deserved better. Deserved more. But stoic, silent, she forgave. More than a love, she became my Phoenix. Always, I believed she would rise again.
There came a point when not even my dad could deny our relationship, and he approached me with fatherly advice. “I can help her,” he said, the twinkle unmistakable in his eyes. I think he finally realized he’d loved some girls once too, and then lost them. Realized that only one per lifetime arrives with the promise of so much more. “I can make her the way she was meant to be.”
My dad did, of course. He always delivered on the things he said he would do.
That was sixteen years ago. 1995. I was 25 years old. Still searching for an identity, a place, a reason. Still in no rush to find any of it. My life an open road before me. But you should always know better than that. Should always know, somehow, there’s a detour just around the curve.
I had a lot of them, man. I’ve taken the fork to places I never knew existed, wonderful towns I’ve passed through that will always hold a dear spot in my heart, and beautiful destinations I’m truly blessed to call home. But there’s been roads without end, as well; dark, desolate patches of broken asphalt that have ruined the destination. Wrecked the ride. Wish sometimes I could have been sightseer instead of tour guide.
All the while, my girl sat. Waiting in the dark. Another year gone by. Another year further removed from a boy’s summer love.
My heart ached.
Sixteen years. That’s a long time when you want something bad enough. Two things I’ve been waiting for. The overdue pursuit of my writing career.
And my girl.
It took a long time to find my way around the detour. Some things are just worth the wait. This summer, I finally became that boy again.
She welcomed me like I had never left her, soothed me for she knew I had never gone far. I guess that’s the result of having a relationship built for nearly 35 years. She allowed me to caress her graceful lines again as I marvelled at her power humming beneath my skin. Her glean seizes my eye always, and there’s not a moment goes by that I don’t step back and catch my breath in spite of myself. My girl has a scent like none other; wordless and timeless and matchless. But there’s nothing on this earth like taking my girl out; the rapture of endless anticipation coiling around me as my pulse hastens, her essence embracing me, pushing my senses to delirium. Her throaty resonance deliciously fulfilling my needs.
I am boy again with her, but more, so much more. I am man, deity, powerful, immortal. I am transcendent. Phoenix.